The Ohio team, which featured eight future Buckeyes, prevailed over the Pennsylvania squad 34-28 before 15,667 at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa.
The win was Ohio's third in a row in the Big 33 series, which is in doubt as game organizers plan to move it to June – in direct conflict with Ohio's North-South Classic.
Ohio capitalized on six Pennsylvania turnovers. After Pennsylvania scored on the opening play from scrimmage, Ohio answered with four straight touchdowns to go up 28-7. Pennsylvania held Ohio scoreless in the second half and got the lead down to one score. But Ohio held on downs in the final minute – after a controversial officials' call negated an Ohio interception – to preserve the win.
"I'm glad it's over," said Ohio coach Steve Channell of Trenton Edgewood. "It was just a great football game. There was a lot of intensity. That's the way it should be. We were fortunate to come out on top."
Ohio quarterback Rob Schoenhoft, set to enroll at OSU, completed 11 of 20 passes for 267 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He was named as the Ohio team MVP.
"It's just a great honor," Schoenhoft said of the MVP honor. "Playing in the game and winning the MVP of this game is a great honor. It's just unbelievable.
"It's just awesome with all the tradition in this game."
Just as good a story was Ohio wide receiver Brian Hartline, who missed all but one game of his senior season due to a broken leg. Hartline, who rehabbed the injury all winter, made a splash with four catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.
"I really didn't come into the game with any expectations," said Hartline, who saw his first live football action in 11 months. "So I guess it went pretty well."
Other OSU signees in the game included cornerback Andre Amos, defensive end Lawrence Wilson, linebacker Austin Spitler, offensive lineman Andrew Moses, wide receiver Brian Robiskie and defensive tackle Todd Denlinger.
Amos had an interception and at least three pass break-ups. Spitler had eight tackles and caused a fumble. Robiskie had three catches for 40 yards. Wilson had a fumble recovery, five tackles, a pressure that forced an interception and also a key sack on Pennsylvania's last series of the game. Denlinger had three stops.
Pennsylvania opened the scoring on the game's first play from scrimmage as Shane Murray dropped a screen for Ed Collington and he rolled 69 yards for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead just 24 seconds into the game.
Ohio answered almost as quickly, scoring in two plays. After a first down to E.J. Morton-Green netted 2 yards, Schoenhoft threw deep down the middle to Michigan signee Mario Manningham on a post route. Manningham beat his defender and rolled for a 75-yard touchdown to tie it at 7-7.
Ohio then took over on its own 5-yard line and drove almost the length of the field in a quick six plays for a score. Schoenhoft completed 4 of 5 passes on the drive. He hit Robiskie for a 27-yard gain, found Javon Ringer for 14 yards on a screen, went to Morton-Green for 24 on a cross and capped it with a nice 23-yard touchdown pass to a diving Hartline to put Ohio up 14-7 with 6:28 left in the first quarter.
"It felt so good," Hartline said. "I didn't know I was getting the ball on that play. The ball was in the air and I just grabbed it out of the air. That's all I did."
Pennsylvania then shot itself in the foot as Murray made a bad option pitch and Ohio's Nick Simon recovered it at Pennsylvania 16-yard line. Five plays later, Dante Love took went in motion and took a handoff on a reverse and scored on a 5-yard run to put Ohio up 21-7 with 3:32 left in the first.
Things went from bad to worse for Pennsylvania as Murray threw a tipped pass interception that Ohio's Derrick Stewart returned 50 yards for a touchdown and a 28-7 lead with 3:15 left in the first. Wilson pressured Murray and Ohio's Bryan Williams tipped the pass up to Stewart.
The screen was big for Pennsylvania once again as Murray dropped one to LaRod Stephens-Hawking and he rolled 78 yards for a touchdown, trimming the gap to 28-14 with 1:26 left in the first.
By rule, Pennsylvania, down 14, got to receive the kick after scoring. This time, Brad Dawson hit Carmen Connolly with a post pass that went 72 yards and cut the lead to 28-21 with 11:46 left in the first half.
But Ohio answered with a seven-play, 69-yard drive. Love, a quarterback at Cincinnati Withrow, took another reverse handoff. This time, he threw deep to Jared Martin for a 48-yard touchdown. Zolton Mesko's PAT kick was wide, but Ohio led 34-21 with 7:51 left in the first half.
After the teams combined for eight first-half touchdowns, there was just one in the second half as Collington scored on a 1-yard run to cut the lead to 34-28 with 5:46 left in the third quarter.
Pennsylvania had four possessions after that, but the Ohio defense proved to be too tough. Spitler punched the ball away from Murray to cause a fumble at the Ohio 17 late in the third quarter. Williams had an interception of Dawson midway through the fourth quarter.
But things took a controversial turn with 1:54 left after Brad Jones intercepted a Dawson pass. Ohio was flagged for having an illegal formation. The officials claimed that Williams had lined up as a free safety – an illegal position when the offense has one back or goes empty backfield. Channell debated the call with the officials for nearly 10 minutes before play resumed.
By rule, the officials can only penalize the defense after it has previously been warned. Channell claimed the Ohio sideline had never been warned.
At any rate, this is when Wilson came up big with his sack, knocking Pennsylvania back to the Ohio 39. On fourth-and-23 there, Dawson threw deep but Williams knocked the pass away to end the threat with 55 seconds left.
The win gave Ohio a 7-6 edge in the series since it resumed in 1993.
The Ohio coaches association will reportedly have a meeting July 31 to discuss its future participation in the Big 33 Classic.